Update September 28, 2012:
Anne Dookhan has been arrested at her home by state police. She is charged with two counts of obstruction of justice, and with lying about her academic credentials. If convicted she faces as many as 11 years in prison. Prosecutors say that she was charged under a state law against misleading “a judge, juror, grand juror, prosecutor, police officer, federal agent, investigator, defense attorney, clerk, court officer, probation officer or parole officer.” her arraignment in a Boston Municipal Court is expected to be held later today.
A chemist in Massachusetts, formerly employed at the Hinton State Laboratory, has confessed to intentionally tainting and contaminating samples and faking drug test results. The controversy swirling around Anne Dookhan began in June 2011, when she took 90 drug samples from the evidence room, and signed them out under a colleague’s forged initials. She resigned in March 2012 during an internal investigation of the Boston lab by the Department of Public Health. In July, as part of a budget directive, police took over the lab where Dookhan had worked for nine years, and quickly found evidence that co-workers, who had complained about Dookhan’s sloppy work for years, were wrong about her. She wasn’t sloppy, she was dishonest. They closed the lab in August.
Police contend that she misled her employers from the beginning regarding her credentials. Her job requires a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Dookhan told her employers, and has even testified under oath, that she has a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts. That school’s officials say that she only has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, and never pursued graduate work.
Even before police released the information about Dookhan’s malfeasance at the lab, the fact that she had lied about her level of education under oath was bound to make waves in the courts. Arnold Ableow, attorney for Larry Blue, a man convicted for drug trafficking on Dookhan’s test results and testimony, said, “If she’s fudging her qualifications as being an expert, then how can you trust her analysis of the drugs?” Dookhan has testified in court over 150 times since 2009.
In her time at the lab, Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug samples in the cases of about 34,000 defendants. She now admits to testing 5 out of every 25 samples she got from evidence, and dry labbing, or eyeballing, the rest. She also says that she contaminated samples to finish work sooner, saying, “I intentionally turned a negative sample into a positive a few times,” but added that no one put her up to it, “I messed up bad. It’s my fault. I don’t want the lab to get in trouble.” As Anne Goldbach from the Committee for Public Counsel Services pointed out, because Dookhan had unsupervised access to the evidence and the safe, and she was in charge of quality control of the equipment, the other chemists could have unknowingly gotten false results, “It calls into question all the testing done by the lab,” said Goldbach.
No charges have been filed against Dookhan. The bosses who ignored complaints against her for years are now under scrutiny.